Fiddle-L Anthology 1999

A Tour 'Round The World Of Fiddling

Performer Bio


Sherry Fawn Hill McKenzie Burleson, Texas (

Sherry was born August 1, 1965 in Idaho Falls, Bonneville County, Idaho. She graduated high school and is a music teacher, professional musician, and music studio owner. She is a member of National Old Time Fiddlers Association and Texas Old Time Fiddlers Association.


Sherry's mother was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and her father was born in Salmon, Idaho. Her father played the fiddle and so did his grandpa. Sherry began playing fiddle at age 11 while living in Idaho Falls. "There was an old time fiddler in my home town who invited kids to come to his house once a week and try to learn to fiddle." Sherry started to take violin lessons in 6th grade but she quit after three weeks, "because I found out it wasn't fiddle music. I love classical music now, but then I only wanted to play fiddle tunes". She adds that several people have helped her and have shown her tunes: "I learned a lot (and still do!)from watching fiddlers play, taping fiddlers, then studying the tapes for hours and hours...". Mississippi Sawyer and Bill Bailey were the first tunes Sherry played on the fiddle; she learned them "from watching the old time fiddler in our home town move his fingers while my dad taped it on cassette, and I studied the tape at home". She has too many favorite fiddle tunes to choose one to name as a single favorite. She is inspired by several fiddle players: Benny Thomasson, The Solomon Brothers, Major Franklin, Terry

Morris, Jimmie Don Bates, Joey McKenzie, Randy Elmore, and Tommy Jackson.


Sherry enjoys playing a variety of fiddle tunes, from hoedowns to hornpipes, rags, polkas, western swing tunes, and two-steps, utilizing cross tuning on some of them. She also plays the guitar, which she enjoys for fiddle tune backup, in addition to bass, piano, tenor guitar, or tenor banjo. "It depends on the setting, but I like different combinations of these instruments." She has played for dances, at weddings, wakes, funerals, and in church and can most often be found "giving music lessons, playing in informal jam sessions, entertaining, fiddle contests, many different situations...".


Sherry says "I do like to attend [fiddle contests], but it depends on the contest". She has been competing since May of 1977, when she entered the Idaho State Fiddle Contest in Idaho Falls, Idaho. There she played Mississippi Sawyer, Cajun Waltz, and Snow Deer. Her brother, Kurt Hill, and another teenage boy, Gary Lund, both provided guitar backup. Although she didn't place, her best friend in the kids' fiddle group, Shelley Campbell, won; "several of my friends placed in the contest. The next year I won that same contest as a 12 year old, I still remember every detail about that contest, it isn't the biggest or most important contest I have entered but it meant a lot to me. In 1996 I won the 60th Annual World Championships at Crockett, Texas, THE FIRST WOMAN TO EVER WIN THIS CONTEST.(Go Girls!) I am the current Texas State Ladies Champion - winning in 1996 and 1997. I have won the Ladies division at the National Old Time Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho, and have also won the World Series of Fiddling, and a few others." Sherry has judged quite a few contests, "ranging from local county fair fiddle contests to the Nationals in Weiser, Idaho - most recently I judged Weiser in 1997. Some contests pay nothing - some pay over $1000." Sherry notes that she enjoys judging depending on the contest. "Many things [make a good contest judge], I think, but someone who is fair minded, appreciates all styles of fiddling, able to stay focused on the fiddling, they need to be able to play the fiddle pretty well themselves, someone trying to do their very best. (There are more too!)"


Sherry says she plays a mixture of many styles, "but I really enjoy Breakdowns". She adds that many earlier fiddlers inspired her as a child, "some I only heard on a tape, but a few I met in person, like Benny Thomasson, Dick Barrett, Herman Johnson." She notes that there must be "many many many" fiddling styles, and that breakdown fiddling dominates in her region.


Sherry plays a recent Strad Copy from the Cremona School. It has a very strong and responsive, well balanced sound. She plays without a shoulder rest and uses Prim medium tone strings, switching between several bows: "I am still looking for a bow I really like". She says she is happy with her instrument, but she helps students look for violins. Her husband, Joey McKenzie (a fellow Anthology participant) does all the set up and repairs for their stringed instruments. Together they deal in musical instruments.


"That is too hard to put into words. I love it!"


Sherry recorded Dusty Miller for this anthology. She learned this version a couple of years ago from "Joey McKenzie, Jimmie Don Bates, Terry Morris and some of my own ideas". Joey provides backup on both guitar and tenor guitar.